Jewish World Review Oct. 24, 2002 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
According to every liberal I know -- Christian, Jew, or other -- Jews are supposed to find this theology offensive and frightening. According to liberals, the evangelicals' doctrine that no non-Christians can be saved is so awful that all other evangelical views must be held suspect -- even their unique support for Jews and Israel.
I would therefore like to announce, as a practicing, believing Jew, that I am in no way offended, let alone frightened, by evangelical Christians who believe that it is necessary to have faith in Jesus in order to be saved.
Why should Jews not be offended by this evangelical Christian belief?
First, since all non-Christians are unsaved, this doctrine is in no way anti-Jewish.
It is pro-salvation, not anti-anybody. The evangelical view of who is not saved is applicable, by definition, to all non-Christians. There is, therefore, no reason whatsoever for a Jew to be personally offended. It is no more applicable to Jews than to Hindus. When most evangelicals single out Jews, it is only to support them and Israel, and to reaffirm Jewish chosenness. It takes paranoia, ignorance and ingratitude for a Jew to join the anti-evangelical critics.
Second, exclusive views of salvation are hardly unique to evangelical Christians. Liberals, of all people, should honor such exclusive views. Don't most liberals think that liberalism is the only way to save America (and don't most conservatives think that of conservatism)? If Christians are intolerant and offensive because they believe they have the only way to salvation in the next life, why aren't liberals intolerant and offensive because they believe they have the only way to salvation in this life? And if Christians must declare that all religions are equally valid paths to salvation, shouldn't liberals have to declare that all political and social doctrines are equally valid paths to America's salvation?
Third, all those who condemn evangelicals for their belief in the necessity of affirming Christ for salvation are doing exactly what they accuse these Christians of doing -- judging and condemning people solely for their beliefs. Here is the liberals' rule: Christians may not judge others by their religious beliefs, but liberals may judge Christians by their religious beliefs.
Fourth, one of Judaism's core teachings is that G-d judges all people by their behavior rather than by their faith alone, and that we are to judge people in the same way. I apply this teaching to evangelicals. I judge them not by their theology but by their behavior. I find that behavior often exemplary, and I regard them as America's best hope to stem the country's cultural and moral decline.
Fifth, insofar as offensiveness and tolerance are concerned, who do you think has it tougher -- a Jew living and working among evangelical Christians or a conservative living and working among strongly committed liberals? As one who is in the former situation, I can tell you that I receive only respect and tolerance. On the other hand, ask conservatives, not to mention evangelical Christians, in Hollywood how they feel. Most keep their views to themselves, so fearful are they of repercussions from the liberal majority.
Let's also compare the evangelicals to the "open" and "tolerant" Protestant Christian denominations as represented by the National Council of Churches. We find moral confusion, anti-Americanism and support for those who wish another Jewish genocide. True, just about everyone in the NCC believes that it is not necessary for anyone to affirm faith in Christ to be saved and that I as a Jew can therefore attain salvation. But so what? Their doctrines that pertain to me, here and now, on earth, not in the hereafter, are the doctrines that frighten me.
Evangelical Christians, almost alone, affirm that America has a divine mission, that this country has better values than Europe, that the United Nations is a moral wasteland, that G-d's law is higher than international laws devised in New York or The Hague, that secularism is wonderful for government but fatal for society, that Israel must be protected against those who wish to exterminate it, that the Jews have a divinely chosen role in history, and that America must remain a Judeo-Christian country. .
If the only way a Christian can hold these precious beliefs is to maintain that faith in Jesus is the only way to salvation, here is one Jew who says: More power to you. Keep your faith strong. .
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
10/16/02: Bigot laureate well represents New Jersey